As much as I love my father, he has his faults, like anyone. Unfortunately, his faults have had profound affects on the lives of others.
For as long as I can remember, my father has been an alcoholic. It’s something that he denies but it is clear to everyone that knows him. He’s not as bad as he used to be, but alcoholism is not something that you can have one day and not another. His refusal to admit that he has a problem with alcohol has lead to numerous arguments in our house and the looser tends to be my long suffering mother.
He is also a bully. In his prime, he was a big man and strong. Now he is older and no longer as robust as he used to be, he uses words to bully people into thinking his way. I don’t think being a Yorkshireman helps as they are known for being stubborn. After he has had a drink or three, he occasionally reverts to his bullying persona, resulting in my mother being upset or doing anything in order to calm him down. It usually ends with my father getting into a sulk and going to bed. It’s been something my mother has had to live with for nearly 45 years and recently lead to her heart failing. She nearly died because of the stress my father had constantly heaped upon her.
So, my father has his faults, but so does everyone. His faults shaped the way I am. I do not drink alcohol. Something that was a constant item of amusement during my time in the army. All soldiers drink. Well, I didn’t and it just didn’t seem right. I hate drunks. I hate being around someone who is drunk. Many years ago, my girlfriend turned up at my room, drunk after a night out. I kicked her out, showing no sympathy at all for her delicate condition and the fact that she felt sick. I just didn’t want the stink in my room. Harsh, isn’t it.
After he kicked me out, I didn’t speak to him for several years. I just didn’t want to know him. I was free of him at last. It wasn’t until I had completed my training in the Army that we began to speak to each other again, but it was guarded and just cordial. I still felt the resentment for what he had done, but time had blunted it enough for me to re-establish contact. Not only that, my mother had pleaded with me, asking me to speak to my father as he was making her life miserable. I relented but it wouldn’t be for too long.
My father is ill. Having survived three heart attacks and a stroke, he is on medication that is vital for his well-being. The doctors had said that he wouldn’t live past 10 years after his heart attacks. That was over 30 years ago and he is still going strong. However, in 2000, after being notified that his brother was seriously ill, he decided to drive up to Yorkshire and see his brother in hospital. He was drunk when he decided to drive and he forgot the tablets that were vital for his health.
I received a phone call from my very distressed mother. She had noticed that he hadn’t taken his tablets and was worrying about my father. I decided to drive to my parents house, pick up his tablets and then drive to the hospital in Yorkshire, where my father was. All the way up my mind was thinking about what he had done and I got angrier and angrier. When I finally got to the hospital and found my father, I gave him his pills and rather harsh piece of my mind. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was irresponsible, dangerous, selfish and a drunk. I also told him that unless he grew up and accepted these facts and did something to change them, I didn’t want to know him anymore. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t have a father. I didn’t give him an opportunity to respond as I had turned away and left the hospital and preparing for my long drive home.
If I thought that my words would have any effect on my father, I was gravely mistaken. He wasn’t going to change, even when his life depended on it. He adopted his usual stubborn position and even blamed my mother for my behaviour and the subsequent refusal to acknowledge him. He continued to do whatever he wanted and when he got drunk he would snipe at my mother, blaming her for all his problems. I can’t imagine the stress my mother was under or how she continued to stay calm while her drunken husband bullied and insulted her.
Although I was ignoring my father, I would continue to visit my mother and try to calm her. My visits were few and far between as I was constantly being deployed. During that period I was deployed to Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and finally Iraq. Upon my return to the UK I would visit my mother, reassure her that I was ok and listen to her while she unloaded her problems. My deployments didn’t help matters as she was worried every time I went away. In the end, I wouldn’t tell her about my shorter deployments in order to relieve her of some of the worry.
I think that it was upon my return from Iraq that my father apologised to me. I had driven up (I think I was on my motorbike at the time) to see my mother after I had got back to the UK. The tour in Iraq had been a little difficult for me, I had been injured and seen several of my friends killed in a suicide attack. When I got to my parent’s house it was late and my father was in bed. My mother was always happy to see me and we were sat in the lounge chatting when my father appeared. He was standing there and crying. I had only seen my father cry when his mother had died in 1978. He came to me and hugged me, crying and apologising at the same time. I was dumbfounded and confused. I didn’t know what to do. My anger for this man evaporated and I found myself trying to calm him down.
We have never mentioned that day since.
We got along fine for several years. When I was about, my father would abstain from drinking as he knew my feelings on the subject and he tried to behave better. We weren’t close but we were on speaking terms.
It wasn’t until I suffered my spinal injury that things changed. For the first time I actually saw a man who showed genuine concern for me. Not only had my accident affected him but my mother had suffered heart failure and then a stroke. All of a sudden, I think he was made aware of the mortality of those he loved but had repressed the emotions. I think that this period was a kick up the backside for my father.
He hasn’t changed but he is trying. Maybe a little too late but better late than never. My father and I grew closer than we had ever been. For the first time in my life he came to visit me at home. By this time I was barely able to move, in a lot of pain and on enough opiates to make the drug addicts in the entire country happy for days. During these visits we would talk, compare experiences and have a laugh and joke. We grew closer and closer. He did have a drink in the evening during the meal that both my mother and father had prepared during the day, but it wasn’t to excess. I accepted that he needed a drink and relaxed my rather obsessive view on alcohol.
As I mentioned in the previous post, we call each other ever day without fail. We are close and we share a laugh and a joke, but I haven’t forgotten what he has done and what he still does. I do still hold him in contempt because of the past. It’s so deeply rooted that I can’t just shake it off. Maybe in time my feelings will change, but I doubt it.
I only have one father. He is old, ill and has numerous faults. He can make my mother’s life miserable when he drinks too much, but otherwise, they are getting along better than ever. We speak every day, comparing pain and discomfort while at the same time ridiculing each other for being so weak. He is the man that raised me, provided for me and made me excel academically. He never stopped loving me even though I had my falling out with him. He was worried when I was deployed and relieved when I returned home safely. He was the one that consoled my mother while she was worrying about me and the one praying to God when she nearly died. He is the man that tries to make a small part of my long, boring days a little more bearable.
He is my one and only father and despite his faults I love and cherish him. One day I may even respect him, but until then, what we have is good enough.